'Searching for Sugar Man' director commits suicide aged 36

STOCKHOLM Wed May 14, 2014 7:14pm IST

Swedish Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, is seen in this December 18, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Anders Wiklund/Files

Swedish Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, is seen in this December 18, 2012 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Anders Wiklund/Files

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish film director Malik Bendjelloul, whose documentary "Searching for Sugar Man" won an Oscar last year, has killed himself, his family said, triggering tributes for a man who "chased the world for stories to tell".

Police said Bendjelloul, who was 36, had died late on Tuesday in the Stockholm area. His brother later confirmed local media reports that he had committed suicide.

"I can confirm my brother has taken his own life," Johar Bendjelloul said in a text message to Reuters.

"Searching for Sugar Man", structured like a mystery, followed two South African journalists trying to track down American singer Sixto Rodriguez after his disappearance from the public scene.

Rodriguez had failed to achieve fame in the United States but, unbeknownst to him, had become a popular and influential folk icon in South Africa.

"Searching for Sugar Man" swept major awards from the U.S. directors, producers and writers guilds, and won audience and special jury awards at the Sundance Film Festival.

It also helped make Rodriguez, now aged 71, better known in the United States and led to a revival of his musical career.

Sony Pictures Classics, the film's distributor, led the tributes to Bendjelloul on Wednesday.

"Much like Rodriguez himself, Malik was a genuine person who chased the world for stories to tell," it said in a statement.

"WHIMSICAL GENIUS"

"He didn't chase fame, fortune or awards, although those accolades still found him as many others recognized his storytelling," the statement said.

Fellow directors mourned his passing.

"He made a great film & will be missed," U.S. filmmaker Michael Moore said on Twitter.

His former employer, Swedish public service broadcaster SVT, said it would run a memorial programme about Bendjelloul on Wednesday evening.

Nicholas Wenno, a reporter at Sweden's daily Dagens Nyheter, described the filmmaker as "a whimsical genius who saw the world in his own way, who seemed fuelled by atomic energy".

"We are many that will mourn you," Wenno added.

Bendjelloul was born in the town of Ystad near Malmo in southern Sweden, according to film database IMDB.com.

He also directed television documentaries about rock singers Elton John, Rod Stewart and Bjork and German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk, the Swedish Film Institute said.

(Addtional reporting by Anna Ringstrom and by Eric Kelsey in Los Angeles, Editing by Gareth Jones)

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